In Partnership with
Fusion Design Contestants
Having made a splash with a pair of original dress designs at last year’s inaugural FusionFest, 10-year-old Annada Vergo is back with another two that further her twin commitments to smart design and social justice.
Annada describes herself as a fifth -generation immigrant on both sides of her family (Sweden via her mother and German via her father), and her 2019 offerings denote even more globe-trotting. One is a U.S./Ethiopian fusion dress made from handwoven fabric her father brought back from the latter country; it’s Annada’s tribute to a milestone that was reached there last year, when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed appointed a cabinet that was 50 percent women. The other is fashioned from hand-painted cloth Annada’s aunt obtained in Papua, New Guinea, and serves as the designer’s statement about the epidemic of domestic violence against women in that country (and here, too).
“I believe it is important for everyone to feel safe in their own home,” Annada says. “The brilliant colors of this dress are my interpretation of light growing stronger despite the violence that may be hidden behind it.”
Ashleigh Renee Mausser is a second-generation Hungarian American whose great-grandparents, grandmother and great aunt caught the last boat coming here from the old country during World War II. They settled in Cleveland, Ohio, but Ashleigh herself was born and raised here in Orlando. And it’s here where, under her AshrockArt brand, she has flourished as a painter, a henna artist and most recently a designer of women’s accessories.
“I have had six runway shows around Orlando,” she says, “including producing Orlando’s Longest Fashion Runway for Immerse 2018.”
At Fusion Fest this year, she’ll show designs that nod simultaneously to her Hungarian roots and the “chic French style” of Canada. That fusion will be seen in capes inspired by traditional Hungarian clothing, with bright flower patterns and fascinators meant to represent the “vintage, classic and timeless” styles of the French.
“I am so in love with my city Orlando!” Ashleigh says. “The city gives great opportunity to local artists and has helped me accomplish my dreams and goals.”
Calling himself an “all-American guy from the south who loves fashion,” Michael Ransom II hails from Lexington, South Carolina. But his heritage is a true mix of ethnicities, incorporating everything from Central and West African to British and Norwegian. He’s been an Orlando resident since he moved here in 2006 at the age of 21, thus fulfilling a childhood dream.
During his brief stint with a modeling agency, he was told he would never walk runway, due to being 2 inches too short. So he got a bachelor’s degree in fashion design and merchandising, in the process developing his own philosophy of fashion: “It must be fun yet functional, while telling the viewer a story without saying a word.”
Michael is showing two pieces at FusionFest this year: One garment is inspired by an African elephant, with the animal’s ear on the back of the piece and the tusks on its shoulders. The other is a gown inspired by the looks of Europe, Africa and the Native American nations.
“Being of slave ancestry, I never learned our heritage or roots from either country,” he says. “That’s why I love learning, because I can create my own idea of heritage.”
Londa Msanii was born in Buffalo, New York, into a family Southerners who had moved to the Northeast. But she said she was “taught about the beauty and rich cultures of Africa at an early age,” and it’s that influence that informs her present-day work as a fashion designer.
“The bright colors in the fabric prints and beading techniques always spoke to me, and had such an impact on how I see fashion,” she says. “I am able to incorporate these colors and techniques into my designs. My love of art and culture can always be seen in my work.”
At FusionFest, Londa will be presenting looks that combine those African elements with Japanese styling – “particularly some Massai beading incorporated with fur and kimono-type designs.”
Now an Orlando resident for the second time (she lived here for 10 years after high school), she balances her fashion-world endeavors by working to raise awareness of thyroid cancer. Her favorite aspect of living in the City Beautiful, she says, is “its diversity and exposure to culture. I am able to stay connected through family tradition, as well as available information, to help me grow.”
An Orlando resident for the last seven years, Milena Kane came here with an extensive pedigree already built up as a world traveler. She was “born in a little town in Moldova during Soviet times,” into a family that had Ukrainian, Jewish, Czech, Romanian and Italian blood. Her first move was to Odessa, Ukraine at the age of 16; at 22, she arrived in New York and immediately recognized America as her country.
Milena has lived in major U.S. cities like Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix, but it’s Orlando that has her favorite diversity of cultures, weather and entertainment options. And it’s a great place for her relatives to visit during Christmas.
Fashion has been her passion since a very early age: Where she once designed colorful clothing for her dolls, she now makes dresses, jewelry and headpieces. For FusionFest 2019, she’s contributing a garment that sets off Russian/Ukrainian/Gypsy scarves and flower crown headpieces with statement jewelry. It’s wearable as a modern traditional costume, she says, or at a special event, presentation or international pageant. “It’s a statement piece!” she promises. We’re listening.
Fusion Design Judges
VP, Talent Director for Fierce Entertainment Management, model and style blogger
Starr Dalton is a Florida native. Her father is from Brazil and her mother is Native American, from Tennessee. As VP, Talent Director for Fierce Entertainment, Starr is actively enhancing Central Florida’s fashion and entertainment scene.
She has been working for Fierce Entertainment Management since 2014. Starr works directly with models and designers to bring exposure to their talents and products. She assists in many areas, such as casting calls and supporting designers administratively by emailing model selections. She is also involved with event promotions, photo selections for social media and writing blogs.
Starr’s background is in interior décor; she went to school from 2007-2010 while securing a position at Ethan Allen for four years. She realized her passion for fashion when working as a model /event coordinator for a local designer. As design coordinator, she gained hands-on experience recruiting vendors, photographers, musical talent, designers and models for a fashion show, instantly falling in love with the entire process. In 2014, she worked as a personal assistant at a model and talent agency in Lakeland; she recruited and interviewed talent and reviewed and selected the best photos from photoshoots for model comp cards. All of these experiences gave her the tools to be successful in her position today.
Nadege Ngongo-Wilson was born in the Republic of Congo (Central Africa). Although she comes from humble beginnings, both her parents were into a variety of businesses at a very young age.
Nadege was exposed to the worlds of art and fashion: Her mother was what you’d call old-time Hollywood, with her strong sense of style, her knowledge of haute couture and her strong passion for all things vintage and glamorous. When Nadege moved to France, it opened up a whole new world for her in fashion.
Nadege holds a B.A in fashion merchandising and retailing. She has worked for several luxury-goods firms, such as Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Ave. and Neiman Marcus, and has held the positions of designer specialist, business manager, personal shopper and stylist. Nadege has visited most of the fashion districts of the world.
Nadege lives and breathes fashion. In 2015, she opened Ce tres Chic, a fashion consulting company specializing in personal shopping, styling, closet edit, fashion-show production, glam-squad and related projects. She has also collaborated with designers like Maison Salvatore Ferragamo, Robert Graham, YSL, and Roberto Cavalli. Newly added is an online boutique; her motto is “Chic-Elegant-Affordable.”
Her website is www.cetreschic.net; follow her on Instagram @chiccetres
Orlando based visual artist and designer, Devinder Singh Malhan, has been reinventing his creative eye ever since his origins in Calcutta, the capital of India’s modern artistic, literary, cultural and educational movements. As an adolescent Malhan first garnered recognition for his drawings and paintings of prophets, highly revered by various Indian cultures.
Devinder’s 2019 “Human Faces” collection is a Neo-Impressionism series featuring oil, charcoal, and acrylic, on canvas. His social commentary looks at urban landscapes reflected within the human form and the reflection of place through emotion—an introspective glance through the constructed environment of our cities.
After moving to Orlando, FL at age 18, Devinder opened a successful boutique on Park Avenue; which ran for 15 years. Inspired further by design, Malhan attended The Rhode Island School Of Design (RISD).
It was in 2001 on a backpacking trip through India while observing the intricately woven textiles and bead work that motivated, Devinder to launch his own design line called, KC Malhan. KC Malhan designs have been featured in Vogue UK, GQ UK, Cosmopolitan UK, Oprah, People, Red Book, and Times of India.
Born in Mandeville Jamaica and raised in South Florida, Nicole Smith has been surrounded by and immersed in multiple cultural influences her entire life. With a deep love for the Caribbean, South American, and African influences she has infused these into her creative expression and artwork. As a model and jewelry artisan she felt the deep desire to create her own works of arts that resonated with her cultural and spiritual beliefs. In 2014, she founded URBAN MYSTICS in Orlando, FL, a brand and movement with a mission to unite multiple cultures to spread light, expand consciousness, and exchange positive vibes through handmade gemstone jewelry and community involvement. As a community leader, she finds great importance in creating safe spaces for cultural individuals to celebrate and express their artistry and influences.